The Pensions Management Institute (PMI) has launched an alternative accreditation programme for professional trustees.
The move comes days after The Association of Professional Pension Trustees (APPT) said it was launching its own accreditation regime from the start of the 2020/21 financial year.
It will mean professional trustees can choose to be APPT accredited or PMI accredited.
The PMI's APTitude programme will follow the standards published by the Professional Trustee Standards Working Group (PTSWG) in 2019 and will be open to all professional pension scheme trustees, who meet The Pension Regulator's (TPR) description of a professional trustee. Applications will open from 24 February 2020.
It will cost trustees £500 per annum for the first three years, excluding examination fees. Applicants who commit to the accreditation scheme for three years will be eligible for a 50% discount on their first year.
The PMI said it had benchmarked pricing against other licences to trade and believed its was "comparable and cheaper than most".
To hold the PMI accreditation, professional trustees will have to pass an initial application, which includes:
• successfully completing the latest TPR Trustee Toolkit
• passing the PMI's Level 3 Certificate in Pension Trusteeship (CPT) Unit 1 (more commonly known as the Award in Trusteeship and previously known as the Trustee Certificate)
• passing the PMI's Level 3 Certificate in Pension Trusteeship (CPT) Unit 2 (a new examination designed to assess a candidate's soft skills)
• complying with ‘fit and proper' requirements based on TPR's Master Trust requirements
• passing a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
• providing proof of credible and relevant employment history within the industry for the past five years
• supplying references from two reputable figures within the industry, such as an existing accredited professional trustee, a pensions lawyer or a scheme actuary
The PMI said this process will be overseen by its in-house qualifications, membership and governance teams to ensure efficient automated processes and full compliance with all GDPR and relevant data-processing regulation.
PMI chief executive Gareth Tancred said: "Professional trustees play a vital role in pension scheme governance and must set themselves apart from other trustees by meeting a higher standard of care. It is imperative for them to be fully equipped with all the necessary skills and tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability and for the process to be robust and rigorous in its method. We believe our accreditation programme is best placed to manage accreditation processes for sole traders as well as large firms."
He added: "Even though TPR did not push forward with a requirement for every board to appoint a professional trustee last week, we would like to see mandatory appointments within the next five years. We look forward to working closely with TPR on developing trustee standards further to ensure the industry collectively drives better outcomes for savers."
Commenting on why two seperate accreditation processes had been launched, the PMI said: "We will still be working with the APPT to deliver courses and qualifications as part of their accreditation process but we are also delivering our own separate accreditation process distinct from the APPT.
"Both of the accreditations follow the same framework put together by Professional Trustee Standards Working Group (PTSWG) but despite the PMI being asked to deliver the programme, the APPT decided that they wanted a different partner to manage their accreditation process, i.e. the back office function. As a result this has led to two different accreditations being launched in the market - many industries have different accreditations, pensions will be no different."
TPR executive director of policy David Fairs commented on the launch. He said: "We regard the accreditation of professional trustees as crucial in promoting improved governance standards. We are pleased to note that PMI has produced an accreditation programme which aims to play an important role in achieving our shared objective of improving standards within the professional trusteeship sector and I encourage professional trustees to fully engage with accreditation programmes."
Professional Pensions has approached the APPT for comment.